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Levitt to seek OK for Jesup Green shows with construction delay

Updated 2:06 pm, Tuesday, April 9, 2013
  • An architect's model of the new Levitt Pavilion complex to be built on the banks of the Saugatuck River. Photo: Contributed Photo / Westport News contributed
    An architect's model of the new Levitt Pavilion complex to be built on the banks of the Saugatuck River. Photo: Contributed Photo

 

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After a delay of more than six months, the renovation of the Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts could start next month, with the venue's fundraising agency reportedly close to securing all of the private funding needed to start the project.

Construction of the revamped pavilion was scheduled to start last September. But the start date has been pushed back because the nonprofit Friends of the Levitt Pavilion has yet to reach its $4.75 million fundraising target. Construction contracts cannot be signed until that private-contribution total is reached, according to town Parks and Recreation Director Stuart McCarthy. He is also the project manager for the pavilion's renovation.

Pavilion officials have not disclosed their current fundraising haul, but a $4.75 million check from the Friends of the Levitt Pavilion is expected to be delivered to the town within the next five to 10 business days, according to McCarthy.

If the town receives the check within that timeframe, construction could begin next month. A May start date would rule out use of the town-owned pavilion for the 2013 summer season, but would facilitate the project's completion before the 2014 season, McCarthy said.

"One of the advantages of this delay is it gives us a longer construction window," he added. "We originally had an eight- to nine-month construction window. This gives us a much more comfortable construction schedule. Some inconvenience for the 2013 season is a good trade-off for the long-term future. The town of Westport is very excited about this project moving forward."

With the pavilion unavailable this year, pavilion officials plan to apply to the Planning and Zoning Commission for permission to relocate to Jesup Green for this summer. Yards away from the existing pavilion, Jesup Green comprises part of the same town-owned property that includes the pavilion and the Westport Public Library. It would use the same parking lots, as well as the same temporary stage that has been used in recent years at the pavilion.

Standing on the east bank of the Saugatuck River in the town center, the pavilion hosts 50 or more free performances each summer. Pavilion officials said they would aim to put on a comparable schedule at Jesup Green.

"Our goal this year is to get as close as 50 events as possible," said Carleigh Welsh, the pavilion's director of marketing and communications. "Once we're back and we have our new Levitt Pavilion, 50 will once again be one of the defining aspects of our season. It's something that we originated, so our commitment to that is unwavering. We are very excited for both this summer and the future."

The pavilion's annual benefit concert, its marquee ticketed fundraising event, is expected to be held elsewhere in Westport because it requires a larger space, Welsh added. Past show headliners include Frankie Valli, Huey Lewis and the News and the Doobie Brothers.

Renovation of the pavilion is a cornerstone project planned in downtown Westport during the next five years. Designed by Westport architect Peter Cadoux, the new pavilion complex will include a stage under a tensile roof, a covered entry pavilion with restrooms, a food concession and hospitality terrace, a new lawn seating area and an extended riverwalk around the site.

In addition to the $4.75 million in private contributions, the new pavilion will be financed by a $1.1 million town appropriation and $950,000 in state grants.

pschott@bcnnew.com; 203-255-4561, ext. 118; twitter.com/paulschott